Published: October 9th 2011September 29th 2011
Upon arriving in La Paz we got a cab to our hostel the ´Wild Rover´. However, we couldn´t check in until 2pm so we put our bags in storage and headed out to explore the city. The first stop was a place called Óliver´s travels´ which advertised that it had full english breakfasts and PG tips tea. We had been yearning for a proper cup of tea for weeks so we were over the moon when we got one! After breakfast we headed to the nearby Witches Market, where we had heard they stock dried Lama foetus´ and other wierd shit. Sure enough they did! and i took great pleasure in Hayley being freaked out by them. However, all said and done the witches market was no more than a street of shops selling typical tourist tat with a few dried lama babies outside to intrigue passers by. Next, we headed to the Coca museum, which is dedicated to the national obsession of chewing coca leaves. Upon entering the tiny museum we were handed a booklet the size of a J.R.R Tolkien novel and pointed through a doorway. There was so much reading that in the end we
both just sat down and read the entire booklet/novel from back to front in comfort and then walked around the musuem. It was relatively interesting to learn about the beneficial side effects that have been shown to occur through chewing coco leaves. At one point during the Spanish inquisition a gram of Coca leaves was worth more than gram of gold because it increased the output of the miners in Potosi so much!
After lunch we went to book our tickets for the riding of the ´world´s most dangerous road´. The road´s nickname was well deserved due to the fact that since it was opened in the 1970´s there were on average 300 accidents per year. Take a minute to consider that most of those accidents would have involved cars/vans carrying much more than 1 person...you do the maths. One accident involving a flatbed truck carrying a large number of people holds the record for the most lives claimed in a single accident...126. How they managed to fit 126 people on a flatbed truck is beyond me! Nowadays, however, the road is absent of traffic because a new relief road was completed around 2008 that is much safer. However,
in typical Bolivian style the engineers, designed the road to have a lifespan of only 12 years, which means that there are parts of the road that were completed first that are now at the end of their lifespan and are in dire need of repair, meaning further drains on the country´s captial...these Bolivians...they sure know how to make life difficult for themselves and everyone around them and generally fuck everything up! Which makes me wonder if our very own, supposedly great, nation is in fact being run by a group of Bolivians chewing coca and hiding under David Cameron´s desk. Probably not, but still, the mental image is rather amusing.
We eventually booked our bike ride for the next day with a company called Gravity Biking. They were the most expensive company, but we had a good feeling about them and we were promised a Kiwi guide, which sealed the deal. Afterwards, we headed across the street to a cafe with a massive image of a cartoon bear plastered across it. It was an ice cream palour and their ice creams were....utterly ridiculous. I went for the carnival ice cream and when it arrived it was almost above
head height! Hayley got a similarly extravagant ice cream loaded iwth fruit salad and multiple scoops of different flavoured ice cream.
After eating all of 1/20th of my ice cream we left and headed to the massive Buenos Aires market to have a look for some bargains. The market sprawled over 30 blocks of the city and there appeared to be some sort of order to the chaos. We seemingly started off in the wedding district that sold everything from wedding dresses to wedding cakes, some with slices cut out of them (obviously the temptation got too much. We promptly left that particular district and inadvertently wandered into the homeware section. After nearly 30 mins of wandering around we were completely and utterly lost and disorientated. Then it started to rain and after 10 futile minutes of trying to find where we were on the map, we jumped in a cab and went back to the hostel.
That evening i had planned to undertake my most courageous quest yet. "What was this illusive quest you talk about!" i hear you scream at your computer screen! Well friends, my quest was to eat what was advertised as ´the most dangerous vindloo in the world´. For the slower ones amongst you, the curry was dangerous because it contained an abhorrent number of chillies (40 to be exact) not because it was laced with arsenic. I had planned to undertake this feat under the supervision of just Hayley, however our friends Ketha and Christina decided to come along for the ride and watch me suffer.
We arrived at the ´Star of India´ around 8.30 and i made a point of sitting facing the wall, not the door because i didn´t want poor innocent customers to walk in the door, see me and say "let´s not eat here...that blokes green and dribbling from his nose". When we ordered i put on my most winning smile and asked the waiter if he would go easy on me. To which he shook his head and plainly said "No mate."
When the food arrived the waiter laid out the girl´s Korma´s and Tikka Masala´s and then plonked a heaped bowl of dark matter in front of me. The smell stung the nostrils and i remembered that great quote from Apocalypse Now when the nutty general walks unfazed through a battle field and shouts at his men "I love the smell of napalm in the morning!".
I dolloped a steaming mound of the curry on my plate and spread it out to let it cool off. (One of my many tactics employed for eating the curry). And then i began. My second tactic employed was to eat quickly, and by quickly i mean not even chewing the sauce. After 5 mouthfuls the spice hit me and after 10 my arm and hand was shaking uncontrollably. The nose started running profusely and i was gasping for breath at points. Hayley, sat opposite, looked genuinely upset and worried about my health, she implored me to stop the madness...but we all knew that wasn´t going to happen.
The hardest part of the curry was the boiled potatoes hidden in the curry, that seemed to keep their insane heat no matter what i did with them! In the end, those too were just swallowed straight down my gullet. Chewing, i had decided, was for pussies. After 15 mins of torture i plunched the last spoonful into my desicrated mouth and let the waves of heat flow over me and slowly die down. The waiter came and unceremoniously dumped my free T-shirt on the table and skulked off. Then the sense of euphoria, due to the endorphines being released, and also because i got the free t-shirt.
We left the curry house and slowly slowly walked back to the hostel where i collapsed in bed.
At 2am, i was rudely awoken by a burning sensation in the pit of my intestines and i had to run for the loo. At 6am i endured an aftershock of the 2am incident and then had to get dressed for the downhill biking. I started to rue my decision to eat the curry the night before an all day bike dride, but i had made my bed and now i was going to have to lie in it...all day.
We hopped in a cab to Alexander´cafe where we had arranged to meet our guide and the rest of our group. We met the guide (Clinton) a gangely Kiwi bloke who seemed friendly enough. We were then told that it would just be us on the trip that day. Everytime we go on a tour we always seem to be on our own...no one wants to play with us :-(
We hopped in the van and drove for an hour or so up to the top of the road. where we hopped on our full suspension bikes, complete with disc brakes. I was in heaven! After a quick briefing about what side of the road to drive on etc we headed off.
The first part of the road was tarmac, with long sweeping bends and great views! After 40 mins or so of tarmac we reached the top of the gravel road. The road was not as bumpy as i had expected and the full suspension bikes made short work of it. The funniest thing about the day was that Hayley´s bike had a seriously loud squeak which we could hear as she slowly approached us each time we had stopped for a rest. The road was 90% downhill so it wasn´t too tiring, but you had to keep your eyes on the road instead of the scenery incase you veered off the edge of the road!
All in all the ride took us about 8 hours and we arrived safely at the bottom at around 4.00pm. Included in our ride was the animal sancturary where we could get a hot shower and hang our with the monkeys! The monkeys were awsome and extremely sociable. As we went to leave the sancturary a friendly spider monkey grabbed my hand and came along for a ride ojn me. I was smitten for a few brief minutes and wanted to take him home...until he decided to piss everywhere (luckily not on me) and the romance was pissed away.
We got in the van and had a long 3 hour journey home via the newly built relief road. Upon getting home, we hit the hostel bar...HARD! and drank the night away. The dangerous thing about the hostel was that they set up tabs for everybody so you didn´t feel that you were even spending money! Of course we did spend a lot of money...A LOT! I crawled into bed around 6am.
We had a big fry up breakfast in the hostel, and then moped around all day...in the hostel. In fact we didn´t leave the hostel the entire day! We did however roughly plan our itinerary for the next 4 weeks and we found out we have a week to spare! So we have decided to visit the amazon jungle for 3 day! Exciting! and it´s also going to be interesting to see how Hazza copes with the bugs and the creepy crawlies!
Yet again we did nothing today. In fact we left the hostel once to get cash and that was it! We watched about 3 films, including the film ´This is England´ which i had never seen before and that i thought was really good! I also managed to catch some NFL at the hostel bar.
For dinner we eventually ventured outside the confines of the hostel to go to a thai restaurant...that served about 3 thai dishes. The rest was all sushi, which i was not about to try considering Bolivia is landlocked and pretty unhygienic. In the end we both got indian curry dishes. Hayley ordered a Tikka Massala (surprise surprise) and i got the Jalfrezi. When the curries came out they were insanely spicey!! Hayley´s Tikka Massala was even spicier than my Jalfrezi! We joked how it was Hayley´s very own curry challenge, but without the t-shirt.
We headed home and were in bed by about 10pm...absolutely shattered!!